Jane Fonda has been stunning audiences across the globe for decades. From the moment she captured attention with her indisputable humor and commendable acting skills in the 1960s, Fonda has become a star with a list of Oscars, Golden Globes, and an Emmy — all on top of her induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Since establishing herself as a legendary actor, Fonda has starred in countless critically acclaimed movies throughout her career, including Barbarella, Klute, Coming Home, and 9 to 5. Her impressive film resume catapulted her into a life of fame and luxury, but Fonda got a taste of the spotlight even before she became an icon herself.
Born on Dec. 21, 1937, to actor Henry Fonda and Canadian-American socialite Frances Ford Seymour, the Book Club star experienced the perks of her parents’ celebrity status. Fonda spent the early years of her life growing up in New York City, but that doesn’t mean she always had it easy as a little girl. In addition to what Biography described as her father’s supposed “cold and distant” nature, Jane Fonda endured the loss of her mother at age 12 when she committed suicide. This devastation led to an eating disorder, which Fonda fortunately overcame. Overcoming struggles, however, allowed her to flourish into a strong, independent, and fierce young woman.
Despite evolving many times throughout her career, Fonda’s inspiring spirit and unbreakable confidence have stuck with her to this day. Keep scrolling to see Fonda’s breathtaking transformation over the years.
Jane Fonda establishes herself as star
After attending boarding school as a teen, Jane Fonda pursued higher education at Vassar College. However, she left the university after two years and escaped New York City to study art in Paris, France. Her overseas rendezvous didn’t last long, though, as she eventually made her way back to the Big Apple (via Biography). When Fonda returned, she set her sights on paving a modeling career. The up-and-coming bombshell established her status when she made her debut on the cover of Vogue in 1959. While she worked as a model, Fonda also explored her aspirations of following in her father’s acting footsteps. Just one year after she appeared on the front page of the prestigious fashion magazine, Fonda made her acting debut in 1960’s Tall Story.
Fonda was also showing off her skills on the Broadway stage. As she juggled her theatrical and film work throughout the early ’60s, she landed starring roles in The Chapman Report, Invitation to a March, The Fun Couple, and Strange Interlude (via Playbill). Her portrayal of Toni Newton in 1960’s There Was a Little Girl even garnered a Tony Award nomination.
By the middle of the decade, Fonda had picked up plenty of other credits in comedic hits, including Cat Ballou in 1965 and Barefoot in the Park in 1967, as well as Spirits of the Dead, Hurry Sundown, and Any Wednesday. It was in 1969 when she cemented her status as a star with Barbella.
Marriage and Hollywood didn't mix well for Jane Fonda
Just as Jane Fonda became a household name thanks to her modeling and Hollywood career, she made room in her life for romance. While juggling her multiple gigs throughout the 1960s, Fonda fell in love with her first husband, Roger Vadim. The Barbarella actor said “I do” with the late French screenwriter in 1965 (via Vanity Fair).
The couple was together for three years before welcoming their only child together, Vanessa Vadim, in September 1968. However, Fonda and Vadim’s marriage ended after seven years in 1973, and the actor opened up about the reason for their split in her 2005 memoir My Life So Far. The environmentalist said Vadim’s “drinking and gambling,” on top of his wavering loyalty, caused irreparable damage in their marriage.
“I had put so much into creating a life with him, fitting into his life, that I had left myself behind,” she penned. So after calling it quits, Fonda focused on her role as a mom as well as her Hollywood career. However, it wouldn’t be long at all before she found love with a new man.
Jane Fonda embraces her role as an activist with second husband Tom Hayden
Shortly after her divorce was finalized in 1973, Jane Fonda walked down the aisle with Tom Hayden that same year. The Klute actor didn’t wait long to expand her family, either, as the couple’s son, Troy Garity, was born months following their wedding ceremony in July. In the 2018 HBO documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts, the star reminisced on meeting Hayden in the early ’70s “at some theater” downtown. “He put his hand on my knee and I felt this electric shock go through my body,” Fonda recalled (via InStyle).
Though Fonda came from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, while Hayden was an author and politician, they bonded over their dedication to anti-war activism. Throughout the years of their marriage, Fonda and Hayden raised Troy — as well as their daughter, Mary Luana Williams, whom they adopted in 1982 — while focusing on their roles as activists. In 1976, they founded the Campaign for Economic Democracy, a California-based political action committee, “later known as Campaign California” the Los Angeles Times reported.
By 1989, however, Fonda and Hayden ended their relationship. And although Fonda claimed in her memoir, My Life So Far, that Hayden “dumped her … for his mistress,” when he died in 2016, Fonda praised her late husband for having a “depth of knowledge.” She told The New Yorker, “He gave me structure and guidance, and I learned so much from him that I am forever grateful for.”
Jane Fonda's tumultuous union with Ted Turner
Shortly after calling it quits with Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda walked down the aisle with her third husband, CNN founder Ted Turner, in December 1991. Of her first date with the media magnate, Fonda wrote in her memoir My Life So Far that she was instantly “smitten” and “bowl[ed] over” to the point that her “whole body was abuzz.”
During their marriage, Turner taught Fonda “so much about the corporate world, about the media world, and about nature,” she told The New Yorker. The Barefoot in the Park actor continued working on her activism, launching the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential (GCAPP). She also became associated with the Emory University Jane Fonda Center, The Women’s Media Center, V-DAY, and the Thomasville Community Resource Center.
In the later years of their marriage, however, Fonda and Turner’s romance fell apart. As her daughter, Mary Luana Williams, penned in her 2013 memoir, The Lost Daughter, the actor’s union with the CNN founder “[ate] her alive.” According to Williams, Fonda lost her sparkle when Fonda found out that Turner had cheated on her with several women. “While Ted was his usual upbeat self, my mom was greatly diminished physically and emotionally,” Williams wrote, adding, “She’d lost a lot of weight from her already tiny frame. Though she continued to put up a front that screamed ‘Everything’s fine!’ I could see things were not. Emotionally, she was shutting down.” By 2001, Fonda and Turner called it quits.
Jane Fonda's romantic journey leads to Richard Perry
After three failed marriages, Jane Fonda had hesitations when it came to giving love yet anoter shot. So throughout the 2010s, she focused on her work as an activist and made a resurgence into Hollywood after taking more than 15 years off. In 2005, she starred in Monster-in-Law, followed by Georgia Rule in 2007 and All Together in 2011.
In 2009, though, Fonda crossed paths with Richard Perry. The Prime Time author said she fell in love with the record producer at the time she was recovering from knee surgery. In a 2010 interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Fonda revealed she went to L.A. “to get a new knee and ended up with a new lover.” Fonda had no intentions of being in a relationship, but she couldn’t deny the connection between her and Perry. The two ended up dating for more than eight years, but before they ever got the chance to say “I do,” as their relationship ended in 2017.
Perry confirmed the split, telling People, “While separations run rampant in this town, often filled with negativity, ours is just the opposite. We continue to maintain a close friendship and care deeply about each other. Jane has rededicated herself to activism and I am finishing my memoirs. So all is well with the Fonda-Perry relationship. We’re just starting a new chapter.”
Jane Fonda is living for herself and her family in her '80s
Over the course of her legendary life, Jane Fonda has learned a great deal about love, heartbreak, and success. After everything she’s been through, the beloved icon says the most important lesson she’s been taught is to always hold family close. As she’s entered the later years of her life, Fonda is mostly concerned with being an amazing mom of her three kids, as well as a dedicated activist and trail-blazing actor. Even though there’s a lot she “didn’t know” about parenthood, she’s devoted to being there for her children.
“You can learn, so I studied how to be a parent,” the Grace and Frankie star told Net-A-Porter, adding, “When I die, I want my family to be around me. I want them to love me and I have to earn that … I’m still working at it.”
In addition to putting parenthood at the forefront of her life, Fonda has no interest in finding love in her 80s. “I’m not dating anymore,” she told Extra in 2018. “I’ve closed up shop down there!” During a chat with Page Six in March 2021, the Emmy winner echoed her sentiments, noting she isn’t worried about living her life as a single lady. “I don’t ever want to be married again,” she declared, while admitting, “It’s something that I wish I’d been better at.”
Fonda doesn’t need a man to realize how amazing she truly is.
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